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Bikes at work at CleanWater Services

Posted by on January 17th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Bob Oxford proudly displays his personal ride
(Photos: Will Vanlue)

What do bicycles and wastewater treatment have in common? Well, plenty, if you work at CleanWater Services in Tigard.

My morning routine usually includes riding past CleanWater’s Durham Facility and every time I go by I see employees using bicycles to get around the sprawling, 20-acre facility. Last week I stopped in to learn more.

Bike lockers outside CleanWater
administrative offices

When I first arrived at the main office, I asked Administrative Assistant Jane Nishizaki to point me in the direction of the maintenance office. I was looking for bikes, I told her. To that, she proudly stated, “You know, we have bicycles here too!” Nishizaki then walked me outside to show off the secure lockers used to store bicycles for use by the front office.

The company-issued bikes for office staff are light-weight hybrids with an upright riding posture and a simple rear rack.

Nishizaki explained how bikes are used by administrators and engineers to quickly carry documents around the plant without the hassle of using a larger vehicle. She was quick to point out all the benefits of having bikes on site, concluding most importantly, “They’re just fun!”

I then headed out to the maintenance department where Bob Oxford, a Maintenance Technician, showed me around. Bob — a self-identified “cyclist,” and proud member of the BTA — is in charge of the bicycles in his section of the plant.

Racks help CleanWater employees
carry tools around the plant

The bikes parked at a rack inside a maintenance bay were all heavy-duty mountain bikes. Off-road wheels, knobby tires, front suspension, and larger rear racks help maintenance personnel carry tools and supplies from building to building.

Oxford told me Cleanwater’s bicycle fleet has evolved over time. They’ve been used at the plant for over 20 years and the maintenance department, where he works, has been using them for at least a decade.

Bikes were introduced slowly at first. CleanWater purchased a couple entry-level beach cruisers and later, when the program proved popular and effective, higher-quality bicycles were added to the fleet. Eventually the program spread to more buildings and departments.

As the company’s bicycle fleet multiplied they began to reflect the personalities of people in charge of maintaining them.

Oxford is a self-described “Bike’n’Hike guy” (a reference to a large, local shop) and he rides his own Giant mountain bike around the plant. Bicycles he helps purchase reflect his no-nonsense aesthetic…

Maintenance department employees are big fans of Giant bicycles

The bikes look a little different over in the engineering department…

CleanWater Services has more bicycles on site than some small bike shops

It was clear that Oxford enjoyed talking about the role bicycles play in his work. But not all of his co-workers are as enthusiastic about bicycles as he is. “For the most part,” he explained, “our people here aren’t cyclists.”

“Cyclists” or not, bikes play a big role at the plant and everyone I met was eager to talk about how bicycles improve the efficiency of their business. According to Oxford and other employees I talked with, well over half the employees use CleanWater’s bikes on a regular basis.

As I was leaving, Oxford offered to give me a full tour of all the plant’s facilities on my next visit. Tours aren’t part of his job description but that’s no trouble. “We’re proud of what we do here,” he said.

— For another view of how a local company puts bicycles to work, peruse Jonathan’s photo essay from his visit to a shipyard on Swan Island.

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A.K.
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A.K.

I took a tour of the Columbia wastewater treatment plant as part of a water quality class at PSU a few years ago. They also use bikes to cover long distances across the facility.

Alan 1.0
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Alan 1.0

Sweet looking porteur in the last pic. What brand is it?

John Beaston
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John Beaston

Trek Belleville

Spiffy
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Spiffy

as always it’s great to see businesses put bicycles to work internally… it would be nice if they’d switch to trikes here, but the little electric chariots aren’t so bad…

Suburban
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Suburban

That’s a nice hunk of front-end travel (suspension fork.) Is this Water treatment plant unpaved?